Oct 29, 2012

Definite Atonement VIII

The Scriptures teach the doctrine that Christ died as a substitute for sinners, and suffered the legal penalty that was entailed in that condemnation that the Lawgiver pronounced upon transgressors.  While there are those who deny the doctrine of penal substitution, the vast majority of evangelicals believe it to be taught in the Scriptures and that it occupies a central place in the doctrine of the atonement and of the Gospel message. 

In the previous posting it was shown that the Scriptures teach that Christ paid the sin debt for all that he represented in his death and therefore it cannot be affirmed that any for whom he died will be lost, or have to pay the debt themselves.  If Christ has suffered the penalty of the law for sin, as a substitute for those he represented in his death, then it is not possible that any of them will ever have to suffer or pay the penalty themselves. 

Those evangelicals who believe in unlimited atonement and in penal substitution are therefore inconsistent when they teach that many for whom Christ died will be sent to Hell.  The only thing they can do is to reject the idea of the injustice of this double payment or "double jeopardy."

Dr. David Allen at sbctoday wrote:

"This is the error of justification at the cross of all the elect." (see here)

But, it is Allen who errs.  The Scriptures are clear that people were saved at the time Christ died upon the cross.  In an earlier posting this was shown to be the clear teaching of the Apostle who said that Christ, having "purged our sins," a completed work, "sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high."  (Heb. 1: 3)  In the previous posting, Paul wrote that the "certificate of debt" for sin was paid when Christ died.  (Col. 2: 14)  Many other scriptures may be cited that say the same thing. 

"For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life."  (Rom. 5: 6-10)

These verses are clear that reconciliation and justification occurred when Christ died.  The adverbs "when" and "while" are used several times in these verses.  The "being now justified by his blood" points one to what occurred when Christ died and shed his blood.  When were those for whom Christ died "reconciled"?  It was "when" he died, when we were enemies.  We become the friends of Christ when we are converted.  If the reconciliation occurs after conversion, then it cannot be said that we were reconciled when we were enemies. 

The text does speak of a future salvation from the wrath to come, but this results from having been justified and reconciled. 

Allen said (emphasis mine):

"A careful reading of Owen reveals he did indeed rely heavily on the double payment argument. It is one of the key linchpins of his whole attempt to argue for limited atonement. Virtually every contemporary Calvinist attempting to support limited atonement does so by appeal to Owen’s double payment argument. Remove the errant commercial notion of a “literal payment” for sins and Owen’s double-payment argument collapses."

He also said:

"There are four key problems with the double payment argument. First, it is not found in Scripture. Second, it confuses a commercial view of debt and the atonement with a legal or penal view of debt and atonement. Third, it fails to take account of the fact that the elect are still under the wrath of God until they believe according to Ephesians 2:1-3. Fourth, it negates the principle of grace by entailing that the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf."

In another posting Allen wrote:

"Like so many high-Calvinists, it appears Schrock has mistakenly bought into a commercial theory of the atonement lock, stock and barrel."  (see here)

First, it is clear that the only way that Allen can rebut the "double payment argument" is to deny it.  In other words, he does not believe that it is an act of injustice for the law to punish two people for the same crime.  He says "it is not found in Scripture."  Allen believes that is is perfectly just to punish Christ for my sins and then to also punish me for my sins.  He does not believe that "double jeopardy" is against Scripture!  Rather than accept the definite atonement view, he rather chooses to say that God does in fact punish two men for the same sins and argues that this is what God does and that it is just.

It is clear however that Paul believes that it is unjust for God to punish both Christ and the sinner for the same sins of the sinner. 

"Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us."  (Rom. 8: 34)

Paul argues that believers cannot suffer the penalty of the law for their sins because Christ has already died in their place and suffered the penalty.  But, this argument has no force if Paul believed that the double payment was just.  Paul obviously accepts it as an act of injustice for God to punish two men for the same sins.  He argues that Christ's suffering the penalty makes it impossible for the sinner, for whom he died as a substitute, to suffer the penalty.

Allen says that the double payment argument "confuses a commercial view of debt and the atonement with a legal or penal view of debt and atonement." 

But, this is a falsehood.  As we have seen, the Bible uses both a commercial and penal view of debt when speaking of the atonement.  From what Allen has written, one would assume that he does not believe that the Bible presents both kinds of "debt" in its teaching about the atonement.  We have already shown how Colossians 2: 14 pictures Christ as satisfying our "certificate of debt," which is given by Paul as a commercial view of it.  Granted, this is not the whole of it, but it is biblical.  The fact that the Scriptures say that sinners were bought and redeemed shows that the commercial view of the atonement is biblical.  The bible teaches that Christ paid our debt, a just equivalency to what was owed by those sinners for whom he died. 

While Allen seems to reject the commercial view of atonement as given in Scripture, he nevertheless wants to uphold the "legal or penal view of debt."  Okay, but does he accept the injustice of having Christ suffer the penalty in addition to sinners themselves suffering it?  Yes, he does.  He does not believe that Christ's suffering the penalty frees anyone from having to also suffer the penalty. 

Allen's third objection to the definite atonement view, and the double payment argument in support of it, is to say that "it fails to take account of the fact that the elect are still under the wrath of God until they believe according to Ephesians 2:1-3."  But, I have already disposed of this argument and shown that such an argument, if valid, would prove that people are not even saved now in conversion.  The Scriptures say that sinners will be saved at the end of time, in the day of judgement.  Does this prove that they were not in any sense saved before then?  No, of course not.  Well, then, so the fact that sinners are saved in conversion does not prove that they were not saved before then at the time Christ died. 

Allen gives his final rebuttal argument, saying "Fourth, it negates the principle of grace by entailing that the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf."   But, the Scriptures affirm what Allen denies.  It does affirm that "the application of the atonement is owed to the elect by God himself since Jesus has literally purchased it from God on their behalf."  This, as we have seen, was the logic and argumentation of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8: 31-33.

"What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."

Paul argues that the giving of Christ, in atonement, for the elect, assures them that God will give them "all things," which must of course include the application of the atonement.

J. I. Packer, in THE TYNDALE BIBLICAL THEOLOGY LECTURE (1973) "What did the cross achieve? - The Logic of Penal Substitution" (see here), wrote (emphasis mine):

"In this broad sense, nobody who wishes to say with Paul that there is a true sense in which ‘Christ died for us’ (huper, on our behalf, for our benefit), and ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us’ (huper again) (Rom. 5:8; Gal. 3:13), and who accepts Christ’s assurance that he came ‘to give his life a ransom for many’ (anti, which means precisely ‘in place of’, ‘in exchange for’16), should hesitate to say that Christ’s death was substitutionary. Indeed, if he describes Christ’s death as vicarious he is actually saying it."

"Should we not then think of Christ’s substitution for us on the cross as a definite, one-to-one relationship between him and each individual sinner? This seems scriptural, for Paul says, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal. 2:20). But if Christ specifically took and discharged my penal obligation as a sinner, does it not follow that the cross was decisive for my salvation not only as its sole meritorious ground, but also as guaranteeing that I should be brought to faith, and through faith to eternal life? For is not the faith which receives salvation part of God’s gift of salvation, according to what is affirmed in Philippians 1:29 and John 6:44f. and implied in what Paul says of God calling and John of new birth? And if Christ by his death on my behalf secured, reconciliation and righteousness as gifts for me to receive (Rom. 5:11, 17), did not this make it certain that the faith which receives these gifts would also be given me, as a direct consequence of Christ’s dying for me? Once this is granted, however, we are shut up to a choice between universa1ism and some form of the view that Christ died to save only a part of the human race. But if we reject these options, what have we left? The only coherent alternative is to suppose that though God purposed to save every man through the cross, some thwart his purpose by persistent unbelief; which can only be said if one is ready to maintain that God, after all, does no more than make faith possible, and then in some sense that is decisive for him as well as us leaves it to us to make faith actual. Moreover, any who take this position must redefine substitution in imprecise terms, if indeed they do not drop the term altogether, for they are committing themselves to deny that Christ’s vicarious sacrifice ensures anyone’s salvation. Also, they have to give up Toplady’s position. ‘Payment God cannot twice demand, First from my bleeding surety’s hand, And then again from mine’ — for it is of the essence of their view that some whose sins Christ bore, with saving intent, will ultimately pay the penalty for those same sins in their own persons. So it seems that if we are going to affirm penal substitution for all without exception we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, deny the saving efficacy of the substitution for anyone; and if we are going to affirm penal substitution as an effective saving act of God we must either infer universal salvation or else, to evade this inference, restrict the scope of the substitution, making it a substitution for some, not all."

"Though the New Testament writers do not discuss the question in anything like this form, nor is their language about the cross always as guarded as language has to be once debate on the problem has begun, they do in fact constantly take for granted that the death of Christ is the act of God which has made certain the salvation of those who are saved. The use made of the categories of ransom, redemption, reconciliation, sacrifice and victory; the many declarations of God’s purpose that Christ through the cross should save those given him, the church, his sheep and friends, God’s people; the many statements viewing Christ’s heavenly intercession and work in men as the outflow of what he did for them by his death; and the uniform view of faith as a means, not of meriting, but of receiving — all these features point unambiguously in one direction. Twice in Romans Paul makes explicit his conviction that Christ’s having died ‘for’ (huper) us — that is, us who now believe — guarantees final blessedness. In 5:8f. he says: ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, shall we be saved from the wrath through him.’ In 8:32 he asks: ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also with him freely give us all things?’ Moreover, Paul and John explicitly depict God’s saving work as a unity in which Christ’s death fulfils a purpose of election and leads on to what the Puritans called ‘application of redemption’ — God ‘calling’ and ‘drawing’ unbelievers to himself, justifying them from their sins and giving them life as they believe, and finally glorifying them with Christ in his own presence. To be sure, Paul and John insist, as all the New Testament does, that God in the gospel promises life and salvation to everyone who believes and calls on Christ (cf. John 3:16; Rom. 10:13); this, indeed, is to them the primary truth, and when the plan of salvation appears in their writings (in John’s case, on the lips of our Lord) its logical role is to account for, and give hope of, the phenomenon of sinners responding to God’s promise. Thus, through the knowledge that God is resolved to evoke the response he commands, Christians are assured of being kept safe, and evangelists of not labouring in vain. It may be added: is there any good reason for finding difficulty with the notion that the cross both justifies the ‘free offer’ of Christ to all men and also guarantees the believing, the accepting and the glorifying of those who respond, when this was precisely what Paul and John affirmed?"

"Sin is viewed as a debt men owe.  Men are criminals against the law and government of God and therefore owe him a penalty.  That penalty is death.  "The wages of sin is death."  (Rom. 6: 23)  When criminals serve their time in prison they are said to have paid their debt to justice.  Eternal death and punishment in the prison of Hell is the penalty that sinners must pay." 

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